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THAT afternoon, in one of the cool, stone-walled rooms of the temple, between the sanctuary and the outer court, the supreme council of the Jews was sitting. This council, the Sanhedrin, was composed of the most noted priests, men well on in years, some of them whitehaired. In the place of honour sat Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, the leader of the nation. Caiaphas was high priest before Pilate came to Judea as governor. Pilate had merely confirmed him in his post.

The decisions of the Sanhedrin required nothing more than the formal approval of the governor. It functioned as a supreme court, both temporal and spiritual, as simultaneously court of justice and senate. Its decisions were irrevocable. All the Jews, both at home and abroad, even princes and high priests, were subject to its decrees. Only when it enacted the death penalty, decided by an open vote, was the approval of the Roman governor necessary before the sentence could be carried out.

This supreme council was a self-appointed body, a preserve of the old rabbinical families. As a hereditary chamber of elderly men it was extremely conservative, so that the Romans tried to secure the election of wealthy persons of tolerant views.

Such were the Sadducees, a small though influential body of patricians, who were loath to let their pleasures, their privileges, and the power of the dominant class be endangered by a defiant attitude toward the conquerors or by any undue display of religious zeal. The law of Moses, said the Sadducees, stands as of old, and we will keep it; but the commentaries of later days, added since that law was first revealed, are not the word of the prophet, and are no concern of ours. Where is it written that we may not lay up treasure to ourselves, that we must not eat from silver platters, that we are not entitled to enjoy the pleasures that God has given us? True that the Romans are unclean; but so long as we keep the feast-days in due order, we are not forbidden to share in the good things the Romans bring us.

The people cannot understand such sophistications, nor should they do so. Do not offer the common folk anything other than temporal rewards: a long life, as promised by the prophets, lived righteously, without either fears or hopes concerning an existence beyond the grave. Show them that they will live on in the persons of their children, and let them seek the blessings of the man whose quiver is full.

Cheek by jowl with such opulent and easy-going fellows (easy-going in doctrinal matters, though strict enough in their judgment of the things of this world) sit in the Sanhedrin their enemies, lean elders, faces alit with the glow of fanaticism. These are the Pharithe name meaning "the pure" or "those set apart."


They are members of the great nationalist party, born democrats, and democrats both in theory and practice. There are six thousand of them, well versed in all the latest commentaries. These priests are, almost all of them, sons and brothers of blacksmiths, curriers, coopers, woodmen, sandal-makers, and the like. It is a rule of party discipline that they shall do manual work for at least one-third of every day; or else that they shall do manual work in summer while devoting the winter to their studies. Most of them are poor, and it is a matter of strict principle with them never to take money or money's worth for expounding the scriptures. Therefore they are honoured by the people.

Nevertheless, with puritanical zeal they hold aloof from the every-day life of the common folk from whom they spring. While renouncing the pursuit of power, pleasure, and pelf (to which their foes, the aristocratic Sadducees, are addicted), they plume themselves upon their intimate knowledge of Holy Writ, upon their skill as expounders and controversialists. Swollen with spiritual pride, they really despise their own brethren, the peasants, craftsmen, and journeymen-who cannot read the scriptures, do not sedulously observe the law, are not able to understand the commentaries. The phylacteries which are conspicuous on their arms, and the large fringes with which their garments are bordered, are to keep them ever mindful of the law.

The way in which they reckon up the effect which every sacrifice may have in attracting God's favour, their parade of long prayers and of flagellations and of

almsgiving, their excess of zeal in the matter of fasts and purifications, their self-righteous airs in the face of those who are less strict than themselves in point of ritual observance, their insistence that no hour must ever be forgotten and no rule ever disregarded, their sedulousness to heed the prohibitions even more faithfully than the positive commandments-these characteristics make them leaders in the education of the people, and also the butt of sceptically-minded individuals, so that their adversaries, the Sadducees, sometimes ask quizzically when the Pharisees intend to begin cleaning up the sun.

With them, works count, not faith. One who offers up many sacrifices in the temple is quit of the duty of maintaining his aged parents. In their educational discourses they speak, not of sin or conscience or adultery, but of how many paces it is permissible to walk on the Sabbath day. Could they get their way, the number of strokes with the rod in a penal flogging would be reduced from forty to thirty-nine. For years they have eagerly discussed the question whether the corn for the sacrifice on the second day of the Passover may lawfully be cut on the Sabbath. Is it binding to swear by the temple, or only by the gold of the temple? Is a woman in childbed unclean for one week only, or for two? On days of atonement, when incense is burned before the Holy of Holies, should it be kindled before or after the entrance of the high priest?

While with their dogmas and their textual criticism the Pharisees were thus tending to choke morality with

tares, these same men were sending forth to the people a message of hope. There would come a new Moses, a new liberator. Never must the Jews forget that they were the chosen people. Theirs was the City of God, and it was their part to despise the heathen. Just as their fathers had refused to swear fealty to the false house of King Herod, so now must they renounce allegiance to the Romans.

What is the business before the Sanhedrin to-day? The councillors are discussing which among certain condemned criminals shall be set free by the Romans. For a generation, now, the Jews have been privileged, on the day of Passover, to demand from the governor grace for an offender. Whose life shall they ask Pilate to spare?

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